Status Update

Following up on my first post “Hello World“, I would like to share that I’ve measured myself recently.

In March 2014, I weighed 113kg with 51% body fat. In July 2015, I weighed 77,5kg with 27,8% body fat. Today, I weigh 64,8kg with 21,3% body fat.
This means I have lost 30% body fat and 48kg in 2 years.

As you can see, stepping on a scale is not something I regularly do. From my point of view the changes I introduce in my lifestyle and how I feel are the most important things. Nevertheless, I find it good to check from time to time how my body is reacting to those changes (if you follow this blog, you already know that: No, I did not “diet”. No, I did not starve. No, I did not take any supplements. Instead, I introduced informed long-term lifestyle changes).

I’m glad to see expressed in numbers what I already knew in so many other ways: I’m on the right track 🙂

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Eating habits – how I lost 46kg

Most people assume I did some hardcore crash diet to lose as much weight as I did (46kg / 101lbs last time I checked).
People come up to me “oohh you’ve must have sacrificed 9e5f8eccc4c631a3eccdc51a504b9d4aa lot”, “I’m sure you had to keep your mouth shut”, “which weight loss supplement did you take?” (this last one is just plain offensive to me, tbh). Again, and again, I need to explain that I’m not, nor have I ever been, on a diet, I did not take ANY supplements. Instead, I corrected my eating habits for the long run. It was a painstakingly slow process, and I’m not done yet (and perhaps I’ll never be), but I “simply” made fundamental changes to what I eat, and started exercising.

Information / knowledge has been the driving force behind all the changes I’ve implemented. Learning and understandi11816300_1011699612203355_3103311428349738562_ong what certain “foods” do to your body and brain is, to me, one of the most empowering things. Once I started learning about nutrition I stopped falling prey, for example, to processed food claims of healthiness. I did not feel deprived because I didn’t eat that frozen pizza, I felt proud for making that choice for myself, but not because it “would make me fat”, rather because it would fuel inflammation, mess with my metabolism, drive blood sugar spikes, etc.

So, as many people have asked me, which were the major changes?
Keep in mind that I’m going on 2 years of this process, I did NOT introduce all these changes at once, nor quickly. I did it baby-step by baby-step, over several months, one change at a time. I changed with health rather than aesthetics in mind.

Major things I’ve removed:

  • Soft-drinks. It took me about 6 months to completely remove this from my life. You can read why on my post Soft drinks = ☠   I avoid fruit juices too, because they keep the sugar and lose the fibre of the fruit.
  • Pasta, white bread, and anything with refined flour in it. You can read why on my post Refined flour isn’t cool
  • Added sugar. To be totally honest I haven’t been able to completely remove it, but at this point the only thing I eat is dark chocolate, minimum 70% cocoa, which nevertheless has added sugar. You can read why on my Sugar = Drug of abuse Part 1 and Part 2
  • Pretty much all processed food: cookies, frozen meals, fast food, ice cream, pre-cooked meals, breakfast cereals, flavoured yoghurts, sausages and deli meats, chips, gelatins, salad dressings, etc. As a general rule of thumb, if it has an ingredient list I’m not eating it.

And then people look at me with that “what the hell do you eat??” face.

No, I don’t eat depressing salads and other preconceived ideas about healthy eating, I love food and cooking, and I create some pretty awesome tasting meals with the help of my bff: the Internet, which holds a humongous collective knowledge of recipes. Examples here, here, and here.

I eat real food, my friends 🙂
Protein, complex carbohydrates, real fat, fruits and vegetables.
5d849cf59097cdc1dab48dfe1192a3b3Eggs, chicken, turkey, beef, salmon, tofu, green peas, lentils, quinoa, all types of beans, chickpeas, oats, almost all types of nuts (some of them I don’t like the taste, meh, I’m picky), olive oil, avocado, coconut oil, mushrooms, cocoa powder (100%), several seeds like pumpkin, sunflower, chia, sesame; eggplant, collard, tomatoes, kale, sweet potatoes, squash, broccoli, spinach, carrots, and pretty much all vegetables I can get my hands on; bananas, kiwis, oranges, pears, grapes, berries and pretty much all fruit I can get my hands on.
As for drinking: plenty of water, freshly brewed herbal tea and unsugared coffee.

Please take into account that at 1st… it was blergh, and there were a lot of setbacks, and that this doesn’t mean I don’t slip every now and then to some white chocolate covered almonds, or to a glistening orange pudding… Sugar is a hell of a drug, and I’m just human.
Correcting my eating habits was one of the hardest things I’ve done in my life, but it was beyond worth it and I’ll never go back. The overall way you feel everyday when you put proper nutrition together with exercise is one amazing loop, believe me.

Sorry for the long post, here’s a final thought:

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Planning Fitness NY’s Resolutions?

Are you planning on making a fitness New Year’s Resolution? Then I have some advice for you.

Personally I’m anti sudden resolutions. But if that’s your thing, and you are looking forward to changing your life into a fitness lifestyle, here’s what my experience has taught me. I hope it helps you!

Knowledge is power. Look for reliable information online and always cross-check references. Don’t take any article/news piece at face value, research its contents.  Learn how your body deals with different foods. Learn what exercise does to your body and mind. In my experience, for example, knowing in greater detail what a cookie does to your body and brain will take you half way away from it.

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Take baby steps. Some people go for that “all or nothing approach”, but that doesn’t work for most of us. Humans are creatures of habit, and trying to change everything in one go can easily be overwhelming. For me it worked to focus on one small change at a time. Many tiny victories instead of one gigantic defeat.

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Be patient. Changes don’t happen quickly, they just don’t. Successfully introducing alterations to your behaviour takes time, and consequently so do changes to your body. If you are overweight, I’m sure you didn’t put the weight on overnight, so don’t expect it come off overnight either. It’s a process, and processes take time. Focus on the changes themselves, rather than on the results.

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Focus on health and progress. If you choose to focus on being healthy and on achieving a little bit more on each workout, the weight will kinda take care of itself. Spend your energy trying to achieve optimum nutrition to properly fuel your body, and on getting out of your comfort zone during your exercise routine, rather that on losing X pounds.Your body and mind will reward you: you will feel amazing. Trust me.

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Nutrition and exercise go hand in hand. As you may have heard: “you can’t outrun your fork”. If you are looking for a sustainable, long term lifestyle change take into account that nutrition and exercise are BFFs not to be separated. You can work your heart out, but if you go home and don’t mind what you put on your plate you won’t make much progress, fat loss wise. I started exercising first, but I noticed a great boom in my body volume loss once I started eating better, baby-step by baby-step.

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Be prepared for setbacks. The road from obese to healthy is a hard one. You can clearly see some obstacles coming, others not so much. You will make mistakes, believe me you will! Accept them as a part of the path, and most importantly learn from them so you won’t do them again, or at least you will see them coming next time.

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Look for a support group. I was fortunate enough to not have to look for it. The right people sort of gathered around me. I firmly believe I would never have come this far without them. Positive, encouraging, challenging, empathetic voices were, and still are, crucial to me. I feel like I owe them a great part of my progress for they believed in me even when I, myself, didn’t. They were understanding without being condescending, so they kept (and keep) challenging me to do more, to be more. So my advice would be to look for people like this in your life, they will help you a great deal.

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Do the work. It’s your body and yours alone. No one can do the work for you. Even the best personal trainer in the world won’t be able to help you if you don’t do the work. Correcting your eating habits, giving your all during your workouts, that’s your work to do. Others can only guide and motivate you. It will be hard, very hard, but brace yourself for it.

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And that’s about it for this post. If you browse through this blog you will find several posts in which I talk about the several pieces of advice I have shared above.

One final thought:

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Now, why should you listen to me?
Well, I started changing my life in April 2014 and the last time I weighed myself – in October 2015- I had lost 46kg. Most importantly, the last time I measured – in July 2015 – I had lost 24% body fat ( I will measure everything again in February or March).
So I consider myself successful in my – forever ongoing- journey towards health. That’s why 😉

Monday Thought

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I have progressed further than I could ever have dreamt I would.
I ended completely changing my lifestyle, and my body had no choice but to follow.

It was a process – in several ways it still is –  , and a very challenging one. Therefore it’s not all smooth sailing, but as long as we’re willing to do the work, it’s perfectly achievable.

Supplements & Me – It’s complicated

Just a little over a month ago I took up a new class, Les Mills Body Pump, and with it came a new level of fatigue. I noticed – when I actually should have seen it coming –  that my recovery time after Pump is much longer than after all the other classes I take (Combat, Balance, CxWorx, RPM), and that weariness began to stand in the way of my performance on the following day(s).

I seriously dislike taking any kind of supplements and I haven’t taken absolutely anything since I changed my life (and even b4 that, tbh). However, having come to terms with the idea that my body needs a helping hand to timely recover from strength training, I talked to one of my instructors. I trust her completely, so whatever she says, goes. And she said ZMAs (just a quick overview here).

Ok, Ok… I can handle that. I guess. Kinda. I’m uncomfortable, but for a different reason than the one I foresaw: I feel horribly pretentious.

I’m no athlete, I’m no crossfitter, I’m no bodybuilder… I’m just someone who takes a few fitness classes, and look at me, taking a supplement like some big shot. I am aware this feeling is fuelled by pre-conceived ideas, but nevertheless it’s here.
On the other hand, most people look at me in awkwardness inducing awe when I tell them I workout 6 days a week. So I guess I do exercise more than average, and it is to be expected that my body needs some kind of supplementation to remain balanced.

So, like I said in the title: Supplements & Me – It’s complicated. Moreover, I’m naturally resistant to change, and this is something new I’m introducing in my life, so I’m sure to struggle with the idea at first. Perhaps it’s just me, perhaps other people have experienced the same mixed feelings, I don’t know.

And just so I don’t leave you imageless:
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Less sugar = better everything

I came across this article and even though I haven’t been able to completely give up added sugar yet (chocolate… my Achilles heel) I have SIGNIFICANTLY reduced its intake. Even without entirely removing added sugar, I can tell you I have experienced all 5 things, and there are many, many, more which aren’t listed here. Click on the link to read the article.

5 Things That Happen When You Quit Eating Sugar

Ps: Number 4 has become powerfully true for me: “Fruits will taste plenty sweet, and if you do take a bite of a cake or pie, you’ll be shocked at how overpowering and overly sweet it seems.”

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Why I opted out of rice

First of all: allow me to restate that I’m on a journey towards health, not towards any weight loss goal. In this process, via baby-steps, I have introduced many – MANY – changes in my eating habits.

At about the same time I started withdrawing pasta from my eating habits (you can read about that in my Refined Flour Isn’t Cool post), I also began removing rice consumption. Why?
The more information I collect, the more sure I am that I want to eat food that has been as little tampered with as possible. And now you say “heelloooo? Rice is a cereal! It’s natural food.” And you are not entirely wrong. However, the rice that we get at the supermarket has been refined and, often, bleached.

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“It’s refined, so what?” Well, the bran is usually where most nutrients and fibre are located, and we are removing it. Also white rice has a higher glycemic index (if you haven’t yet, I suggest you do some research on glycemic index, blood glucose levels and how our bodies respond to it). Also, in 2010, Harvard researchers associated white rice with a higher risk of diabetes. Here’s that article:

White Rice, Brown Rice, and Risk of Type 2 Diabetes in US Men and Women

I found a lot of contradicting stances about rice. A lot of people stand by white rice as perfectly healthy, others look at it as a health hazard. The exact same bipolarism applies to brown rice, as many people defend that the bran layer contains more phytic acid – which prevents nutrient absorption – , can contain arsenic, and can be harder to digest. To be fair, here’s also a post in favour of white rice:

Why I started to eat white rice

Personally, I am more prone to stand for brown rice. BUT it takes a lot longer to cook than white rice, so I have ended up pretty much removing rice from my eating habits. Obviously if I’m at a restaurant or at someone’s home, I’ll gladly eat rice, but on my daily routine I’m perfectly happy with my beans, collard, sweet potatoes, broccoli, chickpeas, carrots, pumpkin, spinach, tomatoes, mushrooms, etc etc etc. as side dish.

Lastly, I want to say that I’m a firm believer that everyone should come to their own decisions about which nutritional habits are best for them.

The feeling of belonging

I can’t quite pin point when the switch happened, because I only realized it recently, but for a while now I feel like I belong at the gym. This may seem irrelevant, but to me it truly isn’t, because I used to avoid gyms like the plague.

Like with most people, when I started going to the gym there was a strong feeling of strangeness. Strange people, strange machines, strange grunting sounds from the weightlifters, strange music (the music played at the gym is a long stretch away from what I usually listen to), strange locker-rooms, strange equipment… strange everything.

I looked in awe at the regular class goers, executing the fitness classes with precision, fluidity and a touch of effortlessness. Useless to say I was the precise opposite.

Fighting the discomfort, on I went. Regularly attending and struggling on until the end of each class. After a while people started greeting me, from the security guards, to the instructors, and even the regular class goers who I admired. I grew accustomed to the movements, to the equipment and to the overall gym ambiance. The regular class goers and the instructors started talking to me, inviting me to events, and I ended up engulfed in the overall group of friends.

As I’ve talked about before, I ended up enjoying working out, and look at gym time as a high point of my day. Feeling welcomed, being cheerfully smiled at and greeted by everyone who works there and knowing I’ll get to catch up with my buddies plays a major role in feeling like the gym is a second home. This, in turn, gives me the confidence to try different things, to push harder, because I truly feel the support of my peers. The gym became the place where I overcome my limits, where I socialize, where I get my fix of endorphins,etc. In short: it became a place where I WANT to go.

And here’s a, very truthful, revelation:

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Success is like an iceberg

Recently one of my gym instructors shared this on her facebook page:

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From my point of view this is a perfect metaphor!

People don’t see all that we go through when journeying from overweight to healthy. Those who have not underwent this transformation tend to disregard what they don’t see and believe it’s an easy process. It truly isn’t.
Also, as I’ve talked about on my post about Setbacks, disappointment and failure are part of the journey. We should accept them and learn from them, instead of giving-up because of them.